Athlone: suburb under siege

2008-03-27 00:00

ATHLONE is a suburb living in fear. No fewer than 11 large homes have been raided and burgled in the past four weeks, with one or more armed gangs smashing through electric gates and front doors, threatening homeowners with guns and making off with huge hauls of valuable goods.

The siege of Athlone, as residents have dubbed it, is being operated by what police think is a well-co-ordinated syndicate who have so far outwitted police and seem unfazed by sophisticated alarms and security systems. Most of their audacious attacks are occurring during the day, in full view of the neighbourhood.

The criminals have been concentrating on the area bounded by Howick, Allerton and Henderson roads. There are 6 500 households in Athlone, with about 30 000 residents.

The robbers are targeting high-priced, easily-disposable luxury items like plasma screen TVs, laptops and DVD players, jewellery and cash. In one robbery, they broke open a safe containing more than U.S.$50 000.

In another, a prominent Pietermaritzburg woman had a priceless collection of antique gold and diamond jewellery stolen from a security box in her bedroom.

Chairman of the Town Hill Community Police Forum (CPF), Stuart Knight, says the robberies and assaults are “a total onslaught and cause for great concern”.

However, Town Hill police station commissioner Captain Lawson Naidoo says the “net is drawing in daily on these criminals”.

Pierre Berrange, chairman of the Athlone CPF sub-forum, himself a victim of the gang, says a security patrol was started on March 1. “But these guys are professionals. They know the guards patrol only at night and that’s why they’re operating by day, especially on Saturday and Sunday afternoons.”

Despite huge losses, many of the victims have only high praise for the rapid and positive response they’ve had from the SAPS, but others are demanding to know what the police are doing about it.

“We haven’t seen anything in the papers or what progress is being made in catching these people,” complained one ratepayer.

However, Captain Naidoo told The Witness more has been happening than meets the eye.

“We’ve been operating by stealth rather than raising the alarm.

“We’ve been busy and I know residents in the whole area are alarmed. But I assure them that the net is closing in. We are working hand-in-glove with agencies such as the provincial crime intelligence analysis unit, the organised crime and forensics units, local criminal databases and traffic departments, and we have built up substantive profiles of the suspects.

“Without giving away too much, what we can say is that we have excellent descriptions and will be issuing identikits soon.

“We know that the syndicate is using the same modus operandi, and drive around scouting the area in late-model or luxury cars [to avoid suspicion], and latest information indicates that they are also operating in the Pinetown/Westville area. We also suspect that the syndicate is based in kwaDebeka [near Pinetown].”

Naidoo says residents can rest easier because “there’s little chance [the gang] will escape the net that has been cast for them, as it stretches right across the province, even reaching to Joburg.

“It’s just a matter of time before we round them up.”

Join the conversation!

24.com encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
0 comments
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

 
/News

Book flights

Compare, Book, Fly

Traffic Alerts
Traffic
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.




Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.